Bridget Kilroy is a second-generation Family Office professional who has dedicated her entire career to bringing professionalized families and the women that run them together. As a young Executive Assistant, she was tasked with joining her Principal at a Family Office networking event and it was upon seeing the lack of women that she decided to create her own. Over the last decade, Bridget has gone on to establish three networking communities to bring next-generation leaders and professional women together. She has achieved this alongside raising her son and taking on just about everything from being a co-cub scout leader and soccer coach to a philanthropy committee member and event coordinator for a working mother’s group.
This International Women’s Week, Bridget joins Agreus to inspire and empower like-minded women within the world of Family Offices and says building relationships is key.
Second Generation Leader
I grew up in the world of Family Offices, watching my dad as he led a multi-billion-dollar Family Office for more than two decades. He was an inspiring leader but also, a great person and a wonderful father. He raised me and my two siblings alone as when my parents divorced, my mom lived out of state working in a Medical Center and so my father really brought us up from there.
Despite leading a Family Office and acting as a single parent, he showed up for every sports game, potluck and scouting event. He was and is the sort of father that will always be there and looking back, we were incredibly lucky. Having a 13-year-old son today, at the age of 36, I learned that being a parent and a leader is really not as easy as he made it seem.
I had my son at a young age while I was still trying to build both my network and leadership skills and I struggled. I struggled to participate in his school, the extra-curricular activities, being a coach for the soccer team, a co-cub scout leader and then of course, the chauffeur, cheerleader, handy-person and go-to for everything. Women think they can do it all and we may try, but we simply cannot succeed at everything and that took a while to learn.
I started by business from the ground up. During the 2008 recession, I was desperate to find a job and landed a role at an Accounting Firm, Rothstein Kass. I was a mailroom clerk but within six months I was promoted to EA for the Principal-in-Charge and their Business Development Executive. I was able to learn an incredible amount from both individuals and two things I still carry today are, understand your strengths (and use them) and when setting goals, ask others for feedback – do not wait for feedback to come to you.
I took advantage of every extra-curricular firm activity and was given the chance to participate in many initiatives including but not limited to; an environmental group, book club, softball team, a corporate board role for Autism speaks, Rockband, a working mother’s networking group, philanthropy committee, a note taker for the firm board meetings and so on.
I observed that activities can bond relationships that can last forever, and these early experiences instilled the importance of relationship building, which facilitated my transition to working at a Wealth Management Firm.
The Nextgen Leaders Network
My position at the Wealth Management Firm started again as an EA. While I was there it was noted that my skills were not suited to supporting an Executive which gave me the opportunity to excel in sales and business development. They gave me the opportunity to join the Founder at a Family Office Conference in 2013 where I arranged a speaking engagement for both he and my dad. One covered traditional stock and bond investments, the other covered alternative investments from real estate to private equity. It was my first networking event, and I was completely out of my comfort zone.
I looked to my father for advice, and he said to ask everyone I met for three things they were looking for and write it down. I may not have been able to help them in that moment but after I built a list of needs and wants, I would be able to connect the dots.
One thing that was incredibly obvious to me however was the lack of women in the room and it was a trend I noticed finance event by finance event, a sea of men.
As a single mother, I needed to make the most of my time networking but I hated it. These events were never filled with the right people and so exactly one year after attending my first networking event, I decided to create my own.
A friend joined me in launching the Nextgen Leaders Network. She was also in finance and liked the idea of curating a room with like-minded people who were doers and engaged individuals. We strived to make it a good mix of both men and women and it was incredible.
My Leadership Style, Influenced by Family Offices
Fast-forward to today and I am blessed to be working on my third Family Office networking group, The Global 51. I have had the privilege of working with families across the world, helping shape their legacy plans in addition to helping them with a myriad of topics and these experiences have shaped my own leadership style as a female leader today.
I would say my five key learnings are:
1) There is never a work/ life balance. Sometimes it is okay to swing on either side for a bit, just remember to always try your best.
2) Networking is not how relationships are formed. We bond by curated experiences and that is how to create a solid foundation.
3) Always ask for feedback and never wait for someone to offer advice on the goals you set yourself.
4) Be open to meeting everyone and try to help anyone you can. You never know where that relationship might go.
5) Be sure to protect your calendar and do not over commit yourself. Time is one thing you cannot have refunded so, use it wisely.
Family Offices, behind the times
It is much harder for women in the Family Office arena, though it really depends on the family’s dynamic. Most of the time, you have a Patriarch as the leader of the family and in some cases; not all cases, they may see different roles for women and different roles for men, in addition to their own sons and daughters.
I have known of some families where their daughters are put in charge of social, education and philanthropic roles and while their sons are put to work on the family businesses and investments. There are still some families today where the women are discouraged from working for the Family Office altogether. They are encouraged to live from their trusts and have passion projects, even though these are brilliant women – capable of doing much more.
In the corporate world there are at least rules and regulations that protect women. The government can campaign and fight for women’s rights whereas in the private sector, these policies or perhaps traditions are much tougher to change. It comes down to a family making a decision and that decision is not monitored or compliant with a governing body.
I believe we are slowly headed in a direction where women can do and achieve anything. Equal pay and equal opportunities. I have also seen women in incredibly powerful positions, leading large financial and executive positions for Family Offices and excelling in both and while it happens, it is not the norm yet.
Role Models and Inspirations
My father was undoubtedly my largest role model as he shaped who I am today. I have had the pleasure of continuing to work alongside him while we both run our own complimentary businesses and my brother Ross also played a role in setting many examples for me. He taught me to keep my head down and work hard when you can.
I lacked a lot of female role models growing up and especially given the career path I set. There are two women however who come to mind. The first is Tami Maricano, the Business Development Director I supported at Rothstein Kass. She taught me how to research and connect the dots between a person’s needs and their business goals.
The second is the late Dorothy Collins Weaver who is sorely missed. She was a remarkable woman, a Family Office family member who gave the advice to learn the difference between needing to actively facilitate introductions between families and when to be a fly on the wall. Dorothy always gave me the best advice when building my own Family Office networking groups and to this day, she remains one of my favorite people.
I have had the greatest opportunity in continuing this advice to the next generation of family members, to influence the next generation and provide guidance to the wealth creators on how best to engage and celebrate the transition from one generation to the next. By curating events, I have helped several people build long-lasting relationships and, in some cases, inspired others to launch new ventures and partnerships together. This remains one of my greatest career achievements.
2020, the hardest but greatest yet
Starting a new business is never an easy task. I compare it with running a marathon. Fortunately, I have run eight of those and three of them, I was a pace-leader for a team. In a funny way, I have been training for this moment my whole life.
I would never of course recommend combining our current environment with home-schooling and launching a business. It has been very stressful at times, having to play detective with how much homework has been done and then teacher in finding out what they have learned. Then is the fun game of fighting over the bandwidth – Call of Duty vs. Zoom Meetings.
While everything seemed to collide at once, it was important to start The Global 51 in 2021 and a global pandemic was never going to stop me. I saw a gap in the way families were forced to network and found great partners at Genrich Family Office to support the need to fill it. Together we have been helping families in need of connecting, virtually and soon in-person through curated experience and thought-leadership.
We are a global private, invitation-only club for Family Businesses and Family Offices and members can participate through our robust virtual and in-person curriculum and experiences. We are dedicated to guiding families and their executives from one generation to the next via our peer-to-peer platform and selective strategic partners.
Just last week we launched our newest platform that bridges our members and non-members together in one safe community from paid subscriptions to limited complimentary access, dependent on a family’s level of engagement. You can learn about both via our website.
Advice to others
My advice to all women this International Women’s Week, Family Office Professional, Family Member, or other woman alike, is to attend as many networking events as possible. Of course, I am biased and would recommend The Global 51 but do whatever you can do to build your network.
Do not be discouraged over one bad experience. You will eventually find yourself surrounded by engaged, caring people who share the same values as you do in business and once you do, relationship building is as fun and easy as going on a hike or going to lunch.
If you ever need guidance, I can suggest a few other communities that I believe provide tremendous value.
From a Family Office perspective, the other piece of advice I would give is to become a great number two. If you are working for a family, you need to know that they are number one and counting on you to look out for them and to provide good advice, no matter how difficult it may be to share at times.
You also need to be flexible. They have hired you for a particular role, but they may end up trusting you with a whole lot more and you need to be ready to not only accept that responsibility but to thrive. With great reward comes great responsibility.